So apparently there’s a gate open. This might be the lamest chapter opening ever, too. Witness:
“A Gate? To what?” Brant [McNeill] wanted to know. He leaned in front of Claire trying to look into Gill’s eyes.
“Beats me,” she admitted, “but I bet it’s not anywhere you’d want to spend your vacation.”
“Gate? Did you say this house is over an open Gate?” A male Spiritualist was halfway onto the landing and tugging at Hemlut’s jacket.
“I believe so,” Gillian informed him.
“Oh shit, we’ve got to get out of here,” he squeaked.
You know how we started off in Key to Conflict with Gryphon being all like this:
Not really conscious of what she was doing but excited enough to get up and run face-first into a wall sometimes? Well, now she’s like this:
I think she’s bored by her own work at this point and when she hits the floor she wakes up and tries to pay attention, but she’s still really discombobulated. As shitty as the editing was in the previous book for not catching some really problematic shit (TRANNY HOOKERS ugh), maybe it was a vacation to read something slightly less problematic but boring as shit. Is it that there’s no sex in this book and both writer and editor have lost interest in it?
So Gillian gets the Spiritualists, Helmut, and Jenna to form a magical circle. Wait…where are Helmut’s grad students? Can’t they help? Of course, I know fuck all about what they’re doing there or what class they’re in or what they’re even studying, so I guess they don’t count anyway.
Gillian says, “Reach out with your feelings…“
“…toward me. Let me bring us together.”
That one was probably not intentional, but I’m grasping at straws to keep me entertained.
I have no idea what her statement means, but Aleksei pops in on the brain phone and tells her he’ll help if he can. HELP DO WHAT??
Okay, so apparently she’s shielding their circle. More halfway decent magical description. The Cloud of Bad Shit, which I guess has been just chilling there patiently waiting for Gillian to get her shit together, is mad and like…I don’t know…tosses ick and fear at them. I guess it’s trying to feed on their emotions? I don’t know.
So the Cloud of Bad Shit is being a bully. The narrative tells us that “bullying was a huge trigger for Gillian.”
If Tanis had forced her to confront [her commitment phobia], he would get Gill at her worst: a first class bully.
When someone is upsetting her, she can be the world’s biggest bitch and it’s all good, but when someone else is being a meanyhead, they’re BULLYING and that’s TRIGGERING.
Remember what I said about my level of rage? Damn, I keep proving myself wrong. I could write you a treatise both about why her use of the words “bully” and “trigger” are not only inaccurate but fucked up, but I’ll spare you. Suffice to say that I don’t believe for a second that Gillian is actually being triggered.
Anyway, she’s super mad, but she notes that “giving in to unadulterated rage was not the hallmark of a good soldier or a good Human being.”
See, it’s these flashes of insight that make me wonder whether Gillian–or the author–is actually self-aware and doesn’t give a shit or if this is someone else trying to give advice via damage control margin notes. “Come on, don’t do this. It just makes her an asshole.”
But of course she does it anyway.
After noting that because she’s an empath, she tends to keep her emotions in check for the safety of herself and others, she lets loose her anger in a way melodramatic scene that would actually be really effective in the climax of a book. This is 36% of the way in and we’re already climaxing?
Maybe this is supposed to be the climax of the last book. Maybe the climax actually happened in the last book and we’re just seeing it now and that’s why it looks out of place, like how the light from ancient stars is just now reaching us billions of years after they actually went supernova.
So Gillian intends to magic-punch the Cloud of Bad Shit back through the interdimensional gate, but she miscalculated and forgot that she had, you know, created a shield first, which is blocking her from doing anything. So she just explodes the shield, “literally flattening every telekinetically gifted Human and non-Human in the house.” But hey, she got the Cloud of Bad Shit to go away, so what’s some collateral damage?
So the landing collapses and everyone falls “twenty feet,” but miraculously they’re not dead because they’re all unconscious when they hit and they just, I don’t know, fucking bounce or something. Can anyone tell me whether that would actually work?
Back in Romania, Aleksei is pissing his pants because Gillian broke their brain phone and he can’t tell what’s going on, so Tanis comforts him and they have some insipid brother talk without a single contraction word between them. Tanis apparently wants to get with Jenna, so they talk about how oddly capable and strong their women are but how they still want to protect them blah blah, so basically the asswipe vampire status quo is still in place.
And then we return to Gillian, who wakes up in a hospital.
OR IS IT?
Of course it’s not.
She apparently got impaled and had surgery. Dr. Jack says, “You are quite intact, with the exception of your virginity, of course.”
That was actually even creepier than intended, especially when Dr. Jack adds that he’s a gynecologist.
Right, so I better be ready for some serious body horror, right?
I don’t intend to hold my breath.
They have the “Aren’t you going to scream?” “No, I know what kind of bad guy you are!!” scene that we’ve all read a hojillion times.
And then a nurse pokes his head in…
…wait, what? So they actually are in a hospital?
Well, there’s the end of that tension, because Jack scurries out when the nurse shows up.
She has a private freakout and wonders why “this one Vampire rattled her cage like no other being ever had.” Well, if he’s as much of a fucking creeper as you’re trying to make him out to be, you ought not to have to wonder, huh?
Here’s some familiar Gillian logic for you:
Thinking back on the romance novels her college roommate had mooned over, Gillian had a brief, disturbing thought that if she weren’t quite so much the badass, and a bit more of a femme fatale, she could run and tattletale to Aleksei and Tanis about Jack. Then it would be their problem and not hers.
Those two sentences encompass everything that is wrong with female characters in UF and PNR. Being a badass means you never ask for help, and being a femme fatale means you’re a tattletale and you make other people handle your problems. Because it’s one thing or the other, always.
So she’s not going to ask for help. Again. With no good reason other than “Jack is bad and they can’t handle him despite being like 330 years older than me and despite Aleksei’s newfound amazeballs powers.”
She manages to get out of bed and finds Helmut, Jenna, and Pavel, who are banged up in various ways but in one piece. Two of the Spiritualists are dead, and they have an “I feel guilty,” “Well, don’t feel guilty” party about whose fault it isn’t.
Jenna goes through some and stupid weird shit to get her out of the hospital without running into Dr. Jack in the hallways, and the chapter ends.
I just checked this book’s Goodreads rating. Y’all, it’s 3.7. THREE POINT SEVEN. For perspective, the first book had a 3.06. People thought this one was better? I mean, okay, I can admit that my rage level is generally lower for this book (um, generally speaking) and my eyeballs haven’t rolled out of my head quite as often (though fuck, Bullwinkle?!) but that is not grounds for such a drastically higher rating.
42%. What disjointed crap will we get to read next time? Guess we’ll have to find out.